No spin to this loss by Dodgers


The kid without a name plate on his locker matched Chris Carpenter.


Two of the handful of knuckleballs that Charlie Haeger tossed Monday ended up in the seats at Dodger Stadium, as Albert Pujols launched a ball into the left-field bleachers in the fourth inning and Rick Ankiel sent another into the all-you-can-eat pavilion in right in the seventh.

The two long balls that Haeger served up in his second major league start were enough to send the Dodgers to a 3-2 defeat by the St. Louis Cardinals that cut their lead in the National League West over the Colorado Rockies to 4 1/2 games.

"Pujols and Ankiel, that was it," said Manny Ramirez, who was 0 for 3 with an intentional walk.

The Dodgers, who won their first 13 home games of the season, extended their home losing streak to an unprecedented four games and lost for the seventh time in their last 11 games overall.

For the Cardinals, the victory was their fifth in a row and ninth in 10 games. Their lead in the NL Central grew to six games over Chicago.

"I wish I could take back a couple of the pitches," said Haeger, the 25-year-old who was called up from triple-A Albuquerque last week to add a healthy arm to the Dodgers' crumbling pitching staff.

Among the mistakes was a 74-mph floater that hit Ryan Ludwick in the back, which proved to be costly. The next batter was Ankiel, who launched a tumbler halfway up the right-field stands to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

Haeger's final line -- three runs and five hits in seven innings -- was enough to earn the approval of Manager Joe Torre, who said Haeger will probably take another turn in the rotation.

The addition of Haeger to the rotation was about as much about the condition of the Dodgers' staff as it is about the way he pitched in the minors. Hiroki Kuroda, who was hit in the head with a line drive on Saturday, will miss his next start. And with Jason Schmidt out of the picture, the Dodgers don't have a fifth starter.

Opposite Haeger was Cardinals ace Carpenter, who shut down the Dodgers in St. Louis last month and delivered another gem at Dodger Stadium.

Carpenter held the Dodgers to two runs and five hits over eight innings. He lasted seven or more innings for the eighth time in nine starts.

But Haeger had a 2-1 lead heading into the seventh inning.

The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out in the first inning and went up, 1-0, when Casey Blake drove in Rafael Furcal on a sacrifice fly.

But Andre Ethier was thrown out trying to advance from second base to third on that play and ended the inning.

"You have the bases loaded, one out, you hope to come out of it with a couple of runs," Blake said.

"[Carpenter] gets stronger as the games goes on."

The Dodgers scored again in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead when James Loney singled to drive in Matt Kemp, who had doubled.

Of the 80 pitches Haeger threw, he said only two weren't knuckleballs.

Assigned to catch Haeger, who was 11-6 with a 3.55 earned-run average with Albuquerque, was veteran Brad Ausmus.

Ausmus said he had caught two knuckleballers during his 17-year career, Steve Sparks in Detroit and Jared Fernandez in Houston.

"You don't know where it's going," Ausmus said. "There's no standard movement."

Ausmus had a special glove for the task, something he called a "hybrid mitt."

"The best way to describe it is if a catcher's mitt and a first baseman's mitt had a baby," he said.


Staff writers Kevin Baxter and Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.

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